Posts Tagged ‘Koh Phi Phi’

Divemaster Trainee Gone Native

Monday, July 13th, 2009

On Wednesday I went for my first two dives here at the Perhentians. The first dive was a wreck dive, an old freighter they call the Sugar Wreck. It lies on it’s side at around 19 meters, so that the shallowest side of it is on about seven meters. When we arrived at the divesite, I looked over the side of the boat, and I could see all the way to the bottom! The divemaster and instructor that was with us said that it was the best visibility they’d ever seen on that divesite, 20-25 meters. We went down at the stern, made our way up to the prow, and entered one of the cargo bays. We swam through to the aft cargo bay, and returned along the deck. The dive finished off along the upper hull, before we surfaced again at the stern. The whole wreck was covered in soft corals, and we saw bamboo sharks, great barracudas, squids, giant blowfish, scorpion fish, and lots of other cool critters. The second divesite they call by the codename of T3, and it consists of a jumble of massive boulders with lots of swim-throughs. I saw nudibranches there for the first time in my life, and they are perhaps the fanciest things I’ve seen so far, little brightly coloured slugs with a knobbly surface. Google it!

Thursday I decided to go exploring the island, and I headed out after a late breakfast. I went north, up to a couple of windmills, and found out there was also a solar power plant. Where the electricity goes is beyond me, though, because everyone is running diesel generators for power… I continued down the other side, to a small beach that would’ve been nice if it weren’t for the fact that it was obviously used as a docking point when the powerplant was built, and has not been properly restored. At the northernmost beach on the island I found no other people, however, and lay there relaxing with my book for a while. I continued exploring, but by then my feet were sore from wearing shoes, so I carried my shoes in my hands the rest of the day. I haven’t worn shoes for so longย  that it hurts really fast…

On Friday, Helena arrived from Koh Phi Phi when I had finished my late breakfast. That day we celebrated Richard’s birthday, he’s one of the guys who works here. I tasted the local rum, Orang-Utan, which goes by the fitting nick name Monkey Piss.

Yesterday Helena and I went over to Coral Bay, and continued north along the shore to go snorkeling. The sea was rather choppy, and there was so much sand suspended in the water that visibility was less than two meters. We gave up after a couple of minutes, and spent the day on land instead.

This morning Helena went diving, and I went to tell Sonny, the owner, that I’ve decided to stay. I checked the balance on my account first, to verify that the money the tax collector’s office owed me for last year had arrived and I could afford the course. I am now officially a Divemaster Trainee! I calculated that If I don’t get a job I probably have to go back to Norway in about three months, close enough to be called exactly one year from the time I left. I hope to be able to stretch the money, though, so I can get to Australia and get work before I run too low on funds. If I manage to get a job here in the Perhentians after I finish my divemaster, I can pretty much stay until my student loan downpayments have eaten up my budget, before I head out, but I won’t make enough to cover the downpayments as well, for that I need a proper job in a richer country.

My beach towel disappeared from the balcony the other day, so yesterday I bought a Sarung to replace it. The Sarung is the local traditional outfit for men, basically a big piece of cloth with the short ends sewn together so it forms a big tube, which is wrapped tightly around the body under the arms and rolled down to the waist so it fits kind of like a skirt. I wore it today, and got appreciative nods and comments from Malaysian men wearing the same garment. When I got over to Coral Bay to speak to Sonny, she exclaimed before I had time to say anything, “Jerry’s staying! He’s gone native on us already!”

Perhentian Islands in Malaysia

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

July 6
When I woke up yesterday morning, it felt as if I was in the middle of an earthquake… When the next flash and boom came a few seconds later, I realized it had been a clap of thunder, but it had been so loud it rattled the doors and windows in my room! The rain came shortly after, and lasted until late afternoon, so I spent the day doing some reading, and when I’d finished Anna Karenina I went to a bookshop and sold it, and bought The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Eon. I don’t often read sci-fi, but Eon is pretty cool. It’s written in ’86, and set in 2010, so the setting is a bit odd. ๐Ÿ™‚ The Soviet Union is still going strong, and so is East Germany, and the much dreaded nuclear war that we were all afraid of in the late eighties had happened in 93!

In the afternoon Helena came over from Tim’s, and told me he was finally starting his tattoo. We had dinner, and then headed over to watch Tim having pain inflicted on his shoulder blades with a foot long stick of bamboo. ๐Ÿ˜‰ On our way there we met a couple of Swedes from Piteรฅ, that we’d been talking to a few days ago, and agreed to meet up with them at the Reggae Bar after we’d been to offer Tim some moral support. We spent the night partly at the Reggae, and partly at the tattoo parlour, until I had to head to bed. I was getting up at seven thirty, so I needed my beauty sleep. ๐Ÿ˜›

This morning Helena woke me up at seven twenty, I packed, and we had breakfast at Garlic, where I’ve had the greater part of my breakfasts on the Island. She followed me to the boat, and we said bye and see you later. I’m going to write her an email once I get onto the Perhentians, and tell her where I’m at, so she can come meet me in a few days.

The Piteรฅ guys were also on the same boat, but they were headed to Koh Samui, and then Koh Pha Ngan for the full moon party. I got in a minibus in Krabi, and was taken to Had Yai, where I changed into an older minibus with less leg room and without aircon, but I was happy, because they weren’t playing insanely loud concert videos with Thai music… ๐Ÿ˜ฎย  I got to Sungai Golok on the border around seven thirty, left Thailand and entered Malaysia very easily. As I came out of the immigration office, I spotted three people just entering, and fingers crossed, I was hoping they were going to Kuala Besut as well. It turned out they, Dean, Rachel and Nathan, had in fact also come from Phi Phi today, and were also headed to Pulau Perhentian, so we’re now sharing a taxi. It’s a 110km taxi ride, but with four people in the taxi, it’s cheaper than the bus, at 25 Ringit per person, or about 40 NOK. I am now at GMT +8 instead of GMT +7, so it’s getting kinda late. I’m guessing we’ll be in Kuala Besut around 11pm, so I hope there are open guesthouses! The first boat to Perhentians leaves at 8am tomorrow morning, and I don’t want to spend the night on the pier… ๐Ÿ˜› It’s also been rainingย  all afternoon and evening, so it’s very wet, but it’s also a bit cooler and refreshing. I definately won’t need any aircon. The last few nights I’ve actually woken up early in the morning and I’ve had to turn off the fan! I suspect I will have to get heated blankets and hot water bottles for my bed when I eventually return to Norway…

July 7
We arrived at 11pm like I thought, and when we’d checked into a guest house, had dinner and gone to bed, it was half past midnight. I got up before 7 to take the first boat out to the Perhentians, and had a gorgeous trip out on a little speedboat, with the sun just up over the islands. Dean turned out to have taken his DM licence on the Perhentians a year ago, and I think I want to use the same outfit. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s on Long Beach on the smaller Perhentian, and it’s called Sunlight. I’m staying at the Moonlight Chalets, which cooperates with the Sunlight Divers. I spoke to the owner of Sunlight today, at the Coral Bay, opposite side of the island from Long Beach, and she said I just had to tell her when I was ready to start. I’m spending some time with the instructors and divemasters here, and I’m going to do a couple of fun dives tomorrow, and if nothing extreme happens to put me off the course or the people, I’ll be spending at least the next six weeks here on the Perhentians! ๐Ÿ˜€ I also might work here after.

PS: My foot is healing nicely.

Beach bum

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Since Tuesday I’ve mostly just been hanging around relaxing on the beaches, and watching Muai Thai and fireshows in the evenings. I spent some time with Cecilie and Simone and their friend Emilie, until they all went home yesterday.

On Tuesday I went looking for a beach where it might be possible to camp out for the night. It took me an hour and a half to get there, but I found an easier way back, so the return was only fortyfive minutes. On Wednesday Helena and I went back and spent the day there, snorkeling and snoozing on the beach, but it turned out not to be good for camping, since the water comes all the way up to the jungle on high tide. We didn’t pack any lunch, and there are no places to buy food, but there were coconuts lying around, so we cracked a couple, drank the milk and lunched on fresh coconut. ๐Ÿ™‚ When we got back, we just had enough time to pick up a camera and head up to a viewpoint overlooking the main village. I got some nice sunset photos, and we stayed until it was dark and got pictures of Phi Phi Don village by night as well. It was rather special to sit there at seven, because at seven pm sharp, the beach bars started playing loud music, and at the same time the evening prayer started at the mosque, with the call to prayer resounding from the minaret!

On Thursday we went to the Adventure Club, the dive centre we’re using here, and booked a night dive. Helena decided to do the Advanced Open Water, so the night dive could be part of her course. ๐Ÿ™‚ The dive was on Friday evening, and it started out with skill training for Helena. She was going to take out a compass course, swim out ten strokes, and then turn around and come back. I was her buddy, so I swam with her, but she didn’t get it right when we were going back, so in the end we had to go back up to find the instructor again! ๐Ÿ™‚ We then had a pretty long swim before we found anything interesting, and the visibility was rather bad, so it wasn’t the best dive I’ve ever had, but night dives are pretty cool anyway. ๐Ÿ˜‰

We’ve found a little shack that serves the best Pad Thai any of us have ever had, so we’ve been going there almost every day… Yesterday we were celebrating Helena’s AOW certification, and we ended up sitting around in a tattoo shop with a German guy Helena’s been hanging out with, called Tim, a couple of other westerners, and a bunch of really nice Thai guys. I was looking a bit at the main tattoo guy’s work, and the patterns he was familiar with, and I am considering finally getting the celtic cross that I’ve been thinking about for years. I might head over there tonight to see if he can design one that I like. He only tattoos with bamboo, which is what I’m after, seeing as bamboo tattoos don’t scab, and I can keep being in the sun and the water. We’re also looking to go sailing, but we both agree that we’d like to be on a boat where there ISN’T as much free beer as you can drink, and it’s not easy to find…

Climbing on Koh Phi Phi

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

I am just as beat today as I thought I would be… When I got to the climbing centre yesterday, I was told that I’d have to pay more to do lead climbing, but my guide, Timi from Hungary, told me when we got up to the wall that she’d let my do it anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚ I first had to prove to her and myself that I still knew how to climb, however, and she set up the first top-rope climb. I saw before I started that it would be like walking a flight of stairs, so I climbed that one barefoot… The next one was a bit harder, so I wore climbing shoes, but still ran up it quite easily. Those two climbs convinced us that my body still remembered, even though some technique had to be refreshed. My greatest weakness is still that I rely too much on upper body strength, not using my legs enough.

I did a few leads, setting up climbs that the other climber up with us, Asaf from Israel, could climb top-rope. He had climbed a bit on indoor walls, but this was his first natural outdoor climb. The last climb i led was a 6a, and it was a bit touch-and-go on the top as to whether I’d make it, but after a couple of rests on the rope on the last bolt, I made it to the top. ๐Ÿ™‚ We rounded off the night on a tough bit, and I managed to get up a 6b+ on top rope, and was satisfied with myself. Today my fingertips are raw and my hands, arms and back ache, but I definately want to go climbing again before leaving Koh Phi Phi!

Today Helena is finishing her Open Water, and I went out to a beach that seemed suitable for camping out. ๐Ÿ™‚ It took me an hour twenty minutes to get out there, since I didn’t quite know the way, but I got back in three quarters of an hour. The snorkeling out there was decent too, and we might head out with mozzy nets and blankets to spend a night under the stars.

I am again sitting at the Ozzy bar with free WiFi, and while I was sitting here unsuspecting of anything, I was assaulted by Simone and Cecilie, the two Danish girls I stayed with in Vang Vieng! They’ve spent the time since then in Vietnam, and got to Phi Phi yesterday. We haven’t made any plans, but the island is so small that I’ve already seen them once more since then, and we’re counting on bumping into each other again in the next few days. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Scuba diving and rock climbing on Koh Phi Phi

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

On Wednesday Helena and I left Koh Tao, took the boat to Surat Thani, and then a bus to Krabi. We spent a night in Krabi, and then headed out by boat to Koh Phi Phi on Thursday. Out here we’ve kept meeting people that we’ve met before, and all agree that this island beats both Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao. It has neither the forced party atmosphere of Koh Pha Ngan, nor the forced diving environment of Koh Tao, although it offers both the party scene, the diving scene and more. It also seems the locals are more welcoming and friendly, making us travellers feel more relaxed and at home. I don’t know if it has anything to do with it, but the tsunami on December 26 2004 might have made it clear how dependent society out here is on continued tourism. It was a horrible disaster, and everyone here, expats and locals alike, lost family and friends when the massive wave washed over the island. Some signs are still left of the wholesale destruction left in the wake of the tsunami; a few pieces of land are still just fields of rubble, and some broken palm trees areย  still standing, but all in all Koh Phi Phi is just as beautiful as it used to be. The Phi Phi islands have been backdrop for both a Bond movie that I can’t remember the name of, and the movie The Beach, and it’s just as beautiful as it looks on the Silver Screen.

We booked our first dive trip the night we arrived, and on Friday, yesterday, we went out on a dive boat shared by a big diving outfit, and several of the smaller ones. We’re in the low season now, and many don’t have enough customers to warrant taking out a boat each. I had two dives to about twenty meters, while Helena spent the time snorkeling. On my first dive I saw a couple of black tipped reef sharks whizz by, but I missed the sea turtle that some other people spotted just after I got out of the water. On my second dive, I saw another couple of Black Tipped Reef Sharks, was REALLY close to two Great Barracudas, a Striped Sea Snake, and also saw a couple of Leopard Sharks. The second Leopard Shark was lying still on the bottom, and I swam up around to try and lie down next to it for a picture. While I was heading around, someone else got too close to it, and scared it up. The result was that the shark swam up, and alongside me for a few meters, and a divemaster from a different outfit got a cool picture of me swimming less than half a meter from the Leopard Shark! He’s the boyfriend of the divemaster who was my dive buddy for the dive, and he promised to email me the photo! ๐Ÿ˜€ I rented an underwater camera for the day, and I don’t regret it in the least, even though it cost quite a bit. ๐Ÿ™‚ Helena saw a handful of Blacktips during her snorkling too, and also a couple of Leopard Sharks. She was bitten by the dive bug, and is starting her Open Water course tonight. ๐Ÿ˜‰ When we’re heading out to Pulau Perhentian in Malaysia, she can then either do fun dives, or she can take her Advanced Open Water if she feels like it, and her budget allows it.

Last night we headed out to the beach after dark, and watched a really good fire show, with poi, fire sticks, fire limbo and other games. Some of the fire jugglers around here are really good, and they look like they really enjoy what they’re doing, unlike what we saw in Koh Pha Ngan and to some extent in Koh Tao.

Tomorrow Helena is headed out to do her confined water dives, and I am going rock climbing. I suspect my body will be completely beat after seven hours of climbing, seeing as I’ve hardly climbed at all since I left Italy in ’99… I’m going to start out with a few top rope climbs, and if the guide is satisfied with my skill, I’ll be lead climbing some routes after that. Here’s hoping that climbing is like biking, and my body remembers the techniques! Right now I’m sitting in an Australian bar with free WiFi and the France vs. New Zealand rugby match on TV, but once this is posted I’ll bring my book to the beach, and keep Helena company while she’s studying for her OW exam. It’s a pity I’m missing the Norwegian summer, but I’m not complaining. ๐Ÿ˜›